literature

The Night that Never Ended p6

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The Great and Powerful Trixie stood before Her Royal Majesty Nightmare Moon. Only last week had she triumphantly returned from her exile, but already Trixie had risen through the ranks of prospective students and now stood before her. Trixie smiled and gave her a formal bow, which she had designed herself of course, and rose to make her report. "My most gracious queen and mistress, I have just recently returned from Manehatten. The riot leaders have been dealt with, just as you ordered. Sadly, one of our members was mortally wounded."

Nightmare Moon looked down from her throne, towering over the lowly unicorn. "Funny, I seem to remember sending a certain other unicorn with you, one who had shown as much promise as you. I dearly hope she wasn't our casualty."

Trixie flourished again, avoiding the gaze of her master. "Sadly, my most regal mistress, it seems she let her guard down. An opportunistic citizen caught her while her back was turned. Though I tried my hardest to save her, she didn't make it." Trixie could barely hide her grin, but Nightmare Moon wasn't looking anyway.

She smiled knowingly, "Trixie, you have exceeded all of my expectations and proven yourself more than useful. Someone as great and powerful as you doesn't deserve mere riot control duties." Nightmare Moon's mane billowed out, encircling Trixie. "I hereby promote you to Royal Guard Captain, the first of my personal unicorn guardians and the right arm of my will. Wear your armor with pride. Let all know that those who serve me faithfully are duly rewarded."

The smoke cleared to reveal Trixie in all her glory. Her cloth wizard cap was replaced with a purple hood, and her flank guarded by an ornate black and purple saddle. She looked at her master and spoke her deepest thanks, but her eyes rested on the throne behind her leader, already knowing where her next ambition lay.






Twilight and Dash sat in wood chairs inside a wooden building. A heavy wooden desk sat in front of them, behind which there was an almost absurdly large wooden armchair. Sitting in the chair, chattering nonstop, was Rarity.

"And I must apologize again for these dreadful conditions, but I assure you that wood furnishing is the height of glamor these days. Oh, but how I've longed to see my boutique just once more, but now you say it's been ruined? Oh, how dreadful, but please, some good news! Tell me again about Hoity Toity, but skip the parts where I was crying this time. Oh, I simply cannot-"

"Rarity, slow down, your making my head hurt."

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry Rainbow Dash. The hustle and bustle of organizing the town gets to me sometimes, and I just can't stop moving. Everything must be properly organized, you know, for maximum efficiency. Of course, that's not to say you can't add an extra bit of flair as you go, my dears. It keeps your spirits up and is well worth the extra effort, if you ask me-"

"Rarity, I'm sorry to interrupt, but we've only just-"

"Oh there I go again! I'm terribly sorry, you two. And only just after I finished explaining myself too, how rude of me. Please, you were saying?"

Twilight and Dash looked at eachother uncertainly, not sure if the white unicorn would start up again. When she simply sat there patiently, Twilight ventured a sentence. "Rarity, we've told you how we got here, do you think we can stay here awhile while we figure out how to get home? Some of the unicorns here might be able to help me with research as well."

Rarity looked appalled, an exaggerated shock crossing over her face. "But of course my dear, stay as long as you like! I'll find an open house for you immediately, one with a beautiful sight over the town center." The unicorn paused for a moment, a sheepish grin crossing her face. "But ah, I hate to ask, you wouldn't be willing to lend a hoof with a few things while you're here, would you?"

Twilight nodded at Dash, who smiled back. She gave Rarity a big grin, more than happy to lend her friend a hoof. "Rarity, of course we'll help wherever we can. It's only fair that we earn our keep here."

"Excellent! Now, let's see, where will your special talents be most useful?" Rarity lifted several pages of paper with her magic, shuffling through them at lightning speed. As she read each page, she simply discarded it haphazardly, and Twilight couldn't help but wince at the sight.

After a few moments, Twilight had to interrupt her. "Oh, uh Rarity? Perhaps I could help you here, if that wouldn't be too bold. I know I've only just arrived, but it looks like you could maybe use someone to help with organization."

Rarity froze and peeked out from behind a floating stack of supply lists, surprised. After a moment though, her face brightened. "Oh of course! How absolutely genius, Twilight! Spike is an excellent aid, or course, but I could use someone in whom I can entrust a little more responsibility. I would be honored if you would work at my side." Twilight and Rarity both beamed at eachother, and Dash couldn't help but feel a little uncomfortable. Here was Twilight again, fitting in perfectly as she led her way through this new world, and Dash was the odd pony out.

The thought didn't last long though as Rarity turned to Dash quizzically, not bothering with the papers anymore. "And Rainbow Dash, let me begin with a long overdue thank you for saving our lives. Not everypony may know of your deeds firsthand, but Applejack and I wouldn't be here without you, and then who knows where the survivors would have ended up."

"Oh, uh, thanks Rarity, but that wasn't really me. I'm not the same Rainbow Dash that you knew."

"Oh yes, I know dear, but you were until very recently before that, if I understand Twilight correctly. I know you would have made the same decision. But please, is there anything in particular you'd like to occupy yourself with here in New Ponyville? I at least owe you enough to let you choose where to lend your aid." Rarity sat with her hooves together, waiting patiently.

Dash thought for a moment, "Anything to keep me in the air really, I just want to be able to stretch my wings. I guess you don't really have to worry about weather patrol down here, huh?"

Rarity shook her head, but smiled. "No, but we do worry about Shadowbolt patrol, if you think you're up to it. Big Macintosh runs the guardsponies' schedules for the whole town down at the guardhouse, but he'll probably put you in touch with one of his pegasus lieutenants."

"Of course I'm up to it! I'm the best flyer in Equestria, remember? I could do simple patrol work in my sleep!" Dash was quite hopeful at the idea of simply flying around all day. Considering how quiet her voluntary patrols had been, she even had a small bit of hope that she might be able to sneak in some trick practice during some quiet part of the night.

Rarity squealed with joy and leapt clear over the desk, embracing both her long lost friends again. "Then now that that's settled, let me officially welcome you both to New Ponyville!"


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Zecora hummed quietly to herself as she returned to her hut. Fluttershy had returned to her own cottage after the departure of her friends for some much needed rest, and Zecora herself was getting ready to turn in for the night. She quietly doused her fire and boarded the window, letting herself sink into her mats to sleep the day away.

A few hundred feet away, a pegasus watched the light of the hut go out. Hopping off her tree branch, she floated to the ground in front of her captain. The captain turned her gaze from their own fire to listen to her report.

"Sir, the hut has gone dark. I estimate forty minutes of remaining starlight before full day. Shall I set up our camp?"

The captain rose from her haunches and looked the mare right in the eye. At least, as much as the goggles would allow. "Lieutenant, do you remember the orders I gave you when we set out on this mission?"

Puzzled, the lieutenant frowned. "Actually sir, you never technically gave me orders."

"Exactly, Lieutenant. I did not order you to come here as your captain, because if I did, then you would be duty bound to break into that hut and arrest the occupant for collaboration with a known fugitive." The captain's face scowled harder with every word, "Fortunately, I asked you out here for a strictly recreational camping trip, during which we have unknowingly stumbled across a hut containing an innocent pony. Therefore, lieutenant, I do not believe it is appropriate to address me as 'sir', but rather by the purely coincidental honorific title that accompanies my rank in the unrelated organization known as the Shadowbolts."

The lieutenant smiled, ignoring the displeasure in the captain's voice. "Of course, captain. However, one cannot help but notice that when in a recreational situation where 'captain' and 'lieutenant' are not symbols of rank, one finds the chain of command slightly blurred. One might even demand some help of their companion with the tents."

The captain glared the lieutenant down, but couldn't contain a small guffaw. After a moment both ponies broke into a fit of laughter, the captain placing a wing around her friend. "Lieutenant, you've been my second in command for nearly a year now, I hardly consider you as being under my orders even when we are on duty. Come on, I'll help you set up the damn tents."

As the ponies worked, careful to keep quiet, the lieutenant grew curious. "Well captain, since I can't technically be questioning orders, what the hell are we doing out here anyway? You only told me to meet you here with enough supplies for a few days."

The captain pulled a rope taught with her mouth, hauling a tent frame into position. Once her mouth was no longer full, she began to reply. "Well lieutenant, here's the situation so far. Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle were confirmed dead months ago, yet they were reported to have visited that hut yesterday and stayed until earlier tonight. The Great and Nosy Trixie got a mole into our ranks and heard about it, but she doesn't know about this place. Now, if that foal had her way, she'd have already arrested them both, but here we are with the known location of a fugitive that has eluded capture for months because we simply waited and watched." The captain pulled the canvas over her tent, setting it up expertly. "So lieutenant, I think that if we follow these ponies' trail, we can maybe learn one or two things about our missing fugitives. After all, the four of them were close friends at one point. Well, six now, I suppose."

The lieutenant gave her tent an experimental prod, which cause it to immediately collapse. Sighing, she grabbed a pole in her mouth once more. Her tent being finished already, the captain trotted over to help her. Once the pole was set again, the lieutenant continued her investigation. "Well the ponies have already left, right? What are we doing here, waiting for Fluttershy to return?"

The captain grunted, pulling the canvas tight. "No, we know where Fluttershy is now, we can let Trixie take care of her later. Somepony else guided our targets into the woods, meaning the hut has visitors from somewhere else as well. We'll keep an eye out for them tomorrow and if nothing turns up, we'll go ask Fluttershy some more direct questions."


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Twilight opened her eyes, her body clock telling her that, regardless of what time of day it was, she had had enough sleep. Twilight groaned but knew from experience that she would not be getting any more rest and rolled out of her bed.

While Rarity was trying to find them an open living space, Twilight was staying in the same building as Rarity. Rarity herself had a luxurious bedroom on the top floor behind her office, while Twilight had a mattress in an unused storage room. Well, it at least has a window she thought, watching the mediocre torchlight pour in. And it's only temporary.

She walked to the door and opened it, taking the small hallway outside directly towards the main office. She heard a door open behind her and turned to see Spike stepping out into the hallway. Sleepy eyed, he waved at her.

"Spike, you're up awfully early. Actually, come to think of it, I don't even know what time it is down here. How do you keep track?"

Spike rubbed his eyes, and Twilight heard his stomach growl. "Hunger, mostly. Honestly, some part of the town is always awake, so time doesn't really mean much. Nobody bothered to bring a clock when they fled the town, but we have a few watches that we use to keep track of important things. Right now it's about 20 minutes before nightfall, I think" The dragon jumped, wakefulness coming into his face. "Speaking of which, I have to go! If I go get my daily delivery from Fluttershy now, I can be back with five or six hours of night left! Rarity needed my help with something special tonight, so I'm gonna get that done ASAP!"

With that, the little dragon rushed down the hall and out of sight. Twilight sighed and smiled at her young friend, then turned back toward the office. She also had some work to do, she knew, and it wasn't going to be easy.

As she entered the office, she couldn't help but cringe again at Rarity's mess. I can't believe she preaches about organization and efficiency in this catastrophe area, she thought. Truly, the place was a wreck, with papers and files overflowing from file cabinets and the floor area around Rarity's desk being layered in documents. Sighing, she began the task of organizing the mess.


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It wasn't until several hours after that that Dash awoke, having not slept for 36 hours before that. Stretching her wings and yawning, she jumped out of her own bed and hurried to the door, eager to start the new night. She had been assigned a makeshift-shack used for new visitors who didn't have a proper house yet, and so there was little more for her there than a roof and a bed. She opened the door to step outside, and found herself in the hustle and bustle of the town. Seeing two pegasus ponies in guard uniforms flying overhead, she leapt into the air and followed them.

Near the entrance that she and Twilight had used, a vaulted stone building had been constructed. Large windows with no glass in them lined every wall, and pegasus ponies were constantly flying in and out of it. Landing on ground in front of the building, Dash entered through the open archway. Spotting a certain red stallion patrolling poring over a terrain map, Dash approached and saluted.

"Rainbow Dash reporting for duty SIR!" Dash ripped off, doing her best military voice. Big Mac and the pegasus next to him looked at eachother for a moment, then let out bellowing laughter, leaning on eachother for support. "What? What's so funny, guys? It couldn't have been that bad, could it?"

Recovering himself, the pegasus next to Big Mac wiped away a tear. "I'm sorry, it's just that nobody has seriously done that in months. We just run patrols, miss, not an air force." He thrust a hoof forward, "I'm Soaren, formerly of the Wonderbolts. Nice to meet you Rainbow Dash, and thanks for the laugh."

Rainbow Dash's heart leapt in her chest. She hadn't recognized the Wonderbolt member without his uniform on, only meeting him for a few minutes at the Grand Galloping Gala. This version of Soaren looked different anyway, part of his face was scarred from what looked like a burn. Returning the hoof shake, she kept her excitement in check. After all, she was supposed to be the semi-famous hero in this world.

Soaren and Big Mac turned back to the map, which Dash could see was now covered in dotted lines. Soaren turned back after a moment and said, "Ok, we've got a solo patrol opening up in just under 10 minutes, that will take you till dinner. After that, you'll fly with me and I'll show you a more complicated route. Think you're up to it?"
"Hell yea I am! No Shadowbolts are going to get through me." She paused for a moment, suddenly unsure of herself, "Uh, sir."
"Alright then airpony, study your route and prepare for take-off!" He saluted sharply, "Heh heh, dismissed, soldier!"


_____________________________________



"Oh Twilight you absolute darling! This room has never looked better! You have done marvelous work my dear, truly marvelous."

Twilight closed the last file drawer with her magic, turning her head as Rarity entered the office. There was still plenty of mess to be cleaned up, but the room was far more manageable than it had been a few hours ago. "Thanks, Rarity. I haven't had to seriously do this kind of thing since Spike came around, but it feels good to do it myself again. I labeled each drawer so you know where everything is, but I think I'll need another file cabinet or two for some of these things."

"Well it looks splendid so far, absolutely beyond expectation. I thought it would be a week at least before I could find my way through here again, but you've given me hope, darling. Tell me, is there anything I can have someone get for you while you work? I'm on my way out again but I can send a pony up with any food or drink you'd like."

Twilight smiled, turning to a new pile of papers. "That would be lovely Rarity, I could really use some lunch. Shuffling this much paper has taken more out of me than I thought. Honestly, I don't even know how you have enough wood left to print it all!"

Rarity smiled and waved her hoof dismissively. "Oh, well, I wouldn't really know. I'm sure the report from the lumberponies is buried in there somewhere, but who can be bothered to read such inane accounts of numbers when there are much more exciting events going on! The ponies like a charismatic leader and I can't very well give them what they love if I'm stuck in here reading reports all day, after all."

Twilight halted and turned to Rarity, catching her eye before she turned to leave. "You… don't read the reports? Any of them? But then how do you know what condition any of the town's projects or supplies are in?"

"Why, I simply go and see the important ones myself! If you're that worried about them my dear, give them a read if you'd like. I'm sure you'll have this place cleaned up with plenty of time to spare before dinner. Speaking of which, I'll have that lunch sent right up to you.  And now, I simply must be off, goodbye darling!" With that, Rarity flourished and left, leaving a very worried Twilight behind.


_______________________


The captain munched slowly on her rations, leaning against a tree trunk. The bough she sat on shifted slightly under her weight, the old tree obviously close to collapsing. She stared through the maze of tree branches, listening to her companion break down the camp below them. Nearly half the night was over, and she hadn't seen any sign of life near the hut except the zebra leaving a few times, each time returning with a wrapped parcel. The captain was about to call down for a shift change when she spotted some movement in the trees about a dozen feet from the hut, and caught sight of a small, purple dragon walking toward the building a moment later.

She gave a low whistle. A moment later, her friend alighted silently on the branch next to her. They looked on in silence as the dragon entered the building for a few minutes, then left wearing a heavy-looking backpack. Spike hummed quietly to himself as he trekked back towards home, never bothering to check the skies above him.


___________________________



Dash soared just above the tree line, encircling the town from the outside. Her patrol route went all around the perimeter of the mountain above the town, and she was using the opportunity to get a look at the landscape. When she and Twilight had entered the underground settlement, they hadn't actually descended at all before coming into a cavern with a ceiling several hundred feet off the ground. Dash could see now that the spot where they had entered from was only about twenty feet away from the steep side of a small mountain, not uncommon for this part of the woods.  For miles around them, the terrain rolled up and down in hills of varying sizes, making New Ponyville that much harder to spot.

She flew up near the top of the mountain and estimated the height of the chamber inside. There's probably about forty feet of stone between the top of the hill and the roof of the cavern, she thought to herself, but some of these walls can't be more than five or six feet thick near the bottom.I suppose Rarity knows what's she doing more than me though, so if she thinks that it's stable then I guess it's stable.

She finished her loop around the perimeter and turned back toward the main entrance. She had a fifteen minute dinner break, and then she'd have to be back in the air. This time, with a Wonderbolt at her side!

Back in town, Twilight was pouring over lists of supplies, her dinner growing cold in her worry. She paced back and forth, using her magic to shuffle reports in front of her. She's thrown two feasts for the town this month, bringing storehouses down to 15% of maximum capacity, she thought rapidly to herself. She's ordered the construction of six new buildings, none of which are designed to accommodate more than a few ponies, despite the fact that lumber stores could barely produce one. Oh, by Celestia! Inspection teams reported that the cavern ceiling is covered in stalactites, but here she ordered new tunnels dug? Does she have no regard for safety?

Twilight's head shot towards the door as the guilty unicorn walked through, her face beaming radiantly. "Twilight, never in my wildest dreams could I have hoped for a more pristine office!"

"Rarity, we need to talk about-"

"You've truly outdone yourself, my dear. And I had thought that this would be your assignment for the week, but in a single night you have-"

"Thank you, but please-"

"-single-hoofedly ironed out every possible wrinkle in communication and co-ordination between myself and the ponies of the town."

"That's exactly what I want to talk to you about, Rarity! Have you looked at these at all? You're giving out food faster than anyone can gather it, you're authorizing unsafe construction, you haven't checked the cleanliness of the town's only water source, you're use of raw materials is-"

"Please, Twilight, I haven't got all day. Skip to the important bits, I'm sure there's something in there about how much the ponies of this town simply adore me." Rarity batted her eyelashes innocently, but this only served to make Twilight angry.

"Rarity, this is all important! You came here as refugees with enough food to last you six months, but it was all gone within two! Within weeks you will run out of food at this rate, and mushroom harvest teams already have to spread out for miles around the town to find groves of edible funguses. Fluttershy makes her own deliveries every day now, up from once a month half a year ago." Twilight stamped her hoof for emphasis after each point, but Rarity seemed more bored than concerned.

"Honestly, Twilight, I don't see what you're so worried about. The town is happy, everybody simply adores my leadership, and I've never had a problem feeding and clothing everypony in town." Rarity walked over to her desk and lay back in her chair, sighing contentedly.

Twilight struggled to hold back her outrage. It's like I'm talking to a pile of hay, she thought to herself, immaculately groomed hay that's too stupid to realize that it's still hay. Instead, she said, "That's just it, Rarity. You've been feeding your citizens like kings for months, and all the food you had saved up is gone. You'll have empty storehouses within a week, and without strict rationing everypony will starve within a month."

At this, Rarity's face became shocked. Twilight sighed in relief, thinking she was finally getting through to her. Her naivety was shortly shattered. "Rationing?! Are you mad, darling? The ponies will never stand for it. I've lead so far with an attitude of generosity, always putting them before myself to make sure they had plenty. How can you expect them to love me if I take that away from them?"

Twilight stamped her hooves repeatedly, her frustration getting the better of her. "No no no no no no NO! This isn't about everypony loving you, Rarity. You have a responsibility as their leader to manage things like this. I'm telling you, this town will die if you don't begin a food ration immediately."

"Absolutely not, my dear. As long as I'm mayor, my town will live happily and contentedly, with warm buildings and full bellies. After all, am I not the holder of the element of generosity? I'll go with only one meal a day, but I cannot ask the same of every other pony." Rarity seemed satisfied with this compromise with herself. "Now my dear, you've had a long day. You may of course have the rest of the night off, but I'll have a new job for you tomorrow. You've certainly shown you have an eye for logistics, so perhaps you can help me plan a new series of tunnels. We've had a small problem with petty theft recently and I was thinking that some more prison cells would be in order."

"That's another thing I needed to talk to you about, actually. The basic minimum safety-"

"Not now, Twilight. I've had a long day as well, and I'm expecting Spike back soon to help me plan a banquet for next week. I believe you wanted to use this time to research a way home, correct?" Twilight began to speak, but Rarity was already pushing her out of the office. "Goodnight, darling, I'll see you bright and early tomorrow night!"


___________________________



The captain hovered silently around a tree, keeping the small dragon in her sights. She couldn't hear her, but she was aware of her lieutenant behind and a bit above her. Trailing the purple oaf had been simplistic, almost boringly so. He moved quickly despite his size, and the two Shadowbolts had taken care when crossing a river with minimal cover, but Spike never took any evasive movements or any steps to cover his tracks. The terrain was becoming hillier now, all the better to have a high vantage point without loss of objects to hide quickly behind.

Not far to their southwest, Rainbow Dash followed Soaren out of the cave. She heard Billy Gruff cranking away behind her, followed by the crunching of stone-on-stone as the door sealed itself invisibly shut. Soaren stretched his wings and glided lazily into the air, With Rainbow Dash following close behind.

"So, how did you end up with the Ponyville survivors? I know you're not from the area." Rainbow Dash berated herself for talking first, worried that the celebrity would think of her as just another desperate fan.

Soaren sighed, remembering back. "Oh, yea. Well, when news of what happened to Ponyville reached the rest of the cities, a lot of riots broke out against Nightmare Moon. I was in Manehatten at the time visiting my teammate Spitfire when one started there. I knew the city wasn't safe, and since the team was all but disbanded anyway I decided to fly down here and try to lend some aid. Poor girl watched her whole family die in those riots, but wouldn't accept my help even after that." While Soaren talked, he alternated between scanning the ground and skies. Rainbow Dash followed right behind, taking careful note of his every move.

Rainbow Dash was looking at his flying technique intently when she noticed something over his shoulder. A wicked idea formed in her head. "Soaren, hold up, want to have a little fun?"

The Wonderbolt came to a halt in midair. "Eh? This is kinda serious, Dash. But I supposed this patrol is usually pretty quiet. What did you have in mind?"

Rainbow Dash pointed to the unsuspecting Spike beneath them. "I don't suppose you're a fan of pranks, are you?" His grin gave her all the answer she needed. "Ok then, follow me." She dove towards the ground, careful to keep out of Spike's line of sight. A rush of air behind her confirmed that Soaren was following her lead, and she crept behind a large boulder. The path that the dragon was on would take him just inches from where they were hidden, and Dash could already see the look on his face when two pegasus ponies leapt out at the speed of sound from right in front of him.



_________________________



The lieutenant stayed parallel with her target, moving along his left side. Through the trees, she could see the faint movement of the captain shadowing Spike from the right. She had been doing this for hours, and simply following the dragon had become boring. Subconsciously, she had long ago begun playing a game with herself to see how close she could get to the dragon without him noticing.

As the dragon slowed down, she moved in closer, edging around a large boulder which lay just inches away from him. As she congratulated herself on a new record, her flank bumped into something. She turned around in surprise to see two equally surprised ponies, one of which was very familiar.

Well then, she thought as she bucked out, So much for subtlety.
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The hardest part of this is making sure it doesn't fall into being strictly an adventure story. I've got two more psycho-shy esque scenes planned out, but for now enjoy some plot development.
© 2011 - 2022 BronyCray
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"Funny, I seem to remember sending a certain other unicorn with you, one who had shown as much promise as you." What other unicorn? I didn't see or notice him/her in any of the previous chapters.